ANOTHER en bloc sale has been thrown out by the Strata Titles Board (STB), after minority objectors claimed — among other things — that the sale had been rushed and was not conducted in “good faith”.
The board on Thursday dismissed an en bloc application by the majority owners of Finland Gardens, without issuing any written grounds of judgment.
The dismissal puts a damper on Sing Holdings and Eastern Summer, which had formed a joint venture company a year ago to make the acquisition.
Eight out of 48 owners at the 98,309-sq-ft development at East Coast Terrace and opposed the sale and started legal proceedings.
In their final submissions, the objectors’ solicitors argued that there was no 80-per-cent majority as three owners in the majority did not agree to sell at $49 million, which was the agreed sale price of the majority owners.
The three had only agreed to sell at $52.7 million. However, the solicitors pointed out, the three owners were later asked to sign documents that lacked reference to any reserve price, but instead “set the individual price that each of the three was to receive”.
This, it was pointed out, had allowed the sale committee and sale agent Credo Real Estate to “sell at a price that did not concern the three owners, so long as they are paid their agreed price”.
The objectors also alleged that the prices were not arrived at competitively and that the sale committee had rushed the sale of Finland Gardens when there was no reason to — since real estate prices were escalating.
They pointed out that when a competing bidder, RV Capital, upped its offer from $46 million to $49.5 million, Credo executive director Karamjit Singh had asked Sing Holdings — which had offered $49 million — to match this price, and then closed the deal “without giving any opportunity” to RV Capital to better its offer.
Indeed, another bidder had later tried to offer $50.5 million, the solicitors said, describing the sale committee as being “in dereliction of its duties to the owners who had given it the mandate to secure the best possible price in the market”.
When contacted, the lawyers for the majority owners could not comment as they are awaiting the grounds of the STB’s decision.
In a filing with the Singapore Exchange, listed company Sing Holdings said the application was dismissed on the grounds that statutory requirements had not been fully complied with.
It said it and its partner in the acquisition, Eastern Summer, were deliberating on the STB’s decision and reserved the right to direct the Finland Gardens owners to appeal against the decision.
Despite the prospect of an appeal, minority property owner Valerie Chia is optimistic.
Describing her mood as “ecstatic”, Mrs Chia said she had opposed the sale as she had bought her four-bedroom apartment during the peak of property prices in 1996 for $1.22 million. She would have received just $1.268 million in the sale, she said, and after forking out legal and stamp duties, would have lost out.
The case follows a string of en bloc tussles, including the Horizon Towers deal, initially thrown out because of irregularities and now awaiting a High Court decision.
Source : Weekend - 1 Dec 2007